SAK Rebuilt - Progress Report 19

'Planting' Ballast!

By mid-January 2007, as seen in last progress report (18), the SAK tracklaying was sufficiently far advanced from both directions that there was less than a mile separating the ends with only a few minor gaps to be filled elsewhere. Given the speed with which this was happening I was keen to keep checking up on a regular basis, but this was a problem in winter as I am busy at weekends, go to work in near darkness, and return home in total darkness!

However seeing tracklaying in Alloa is a powerful lure, so on Saturday 27/1/07, ten days after I filmed the camcorder footage from which the last progress report was captured, I set out to see what was going on. Not for the first time, I was due to go a pick up a friend that day, but I had a quick look at what was going on first, and what I found was so interesting, I was easily able to talk my friend into coming back for a much longer look!


1. On this occasion I started at the first road overbridge east of Alloa West Junction, which was almost where the track had been laid to 10 days before. Looking east shows, perhaps surprisingly, that track hasn't yet been laid immediately eastwards of this point yet...



 

2. ... but zooming in shows that sleepers are being laid from the other direction!



 

3. I crossed the road and had a look westward and found a road-rail machine picking up a bundle of sleepers from a sizeable stockpile, doubtless ferried up by a machine like this using the newly laid track!



 

4. I moved round to the next bridge, and at once pointed the camera eastwards to get a good view of the ongoing tracklaying. Clearly track is being laid westward from the original Alloa station site, perhaps to make it easier for a machine to ferry sleeper bundles from the stockpile along an unimpeded trackbed.



 

5. Zooming in shows that the track goes out of sight, which means that at a minimum it goes most of the way to the Alloa station bridge. The S-bend is due to the trackbed retained by BR being the original westbound track through the station platform, although the reverse curve seen here is a lot smoother than the old westbound track used to be!



 

6. Looking westwards reveals that the next bundle of sleepers has almost caught me up! Time to move down another bridge?



 

7. Looking at the new tracklaying from the Mar Place bridge doesn't add much, but is an interesting view nonetheless. It looks like sleepers are being prepared for the whole length of the next sections of welded rail, after which the rails will be lifted in and fastened down. It's less spectacular than using the tracklayer that laid the eatern section of the SAK, but this method seems to be how about two-thirds of the SAK will have been laid once all the track is down!



 

8. Crossing the road, and zooming out a bit shows that the new track ends (or starts!) just this side of the Alloa Station Bridge.



 

9. A view from a slightly different angle shows that, being freshly laid, the track isn't forming a perfect curve as yet. There will be time enough to deal with that during the ballasting & tamping work though.



 

10. Moving on to the old Waggonway bridge, I was able to see that the trackbed under the station bridge now has a flat bed of ballast, suggesting that it is now ready for tracklaying. However the ballast soon runs out, and work is still being done on the section underneath where I was standing.



 

11. In the other direction however the bed of ballast resumes and is now about half-way down the new station platform face. This picture doesn't show much detail of the white substance beyond...



 

12. ...but the zoom view shows more clearly that it is a white 'membrane' that is being put down under the bed of ballast to (I think) discourage weeds from growing. Beyond it is the end of the track laid into Alloa from the east - not too far to go to make the ends meet, at least in terms of distance!



 

13. Swinging round shows that the future station car park is still a worksite with big heaps of both removed spoil (earth and weeds), and new ballast. The articulated site tipper about to be loaded with ballast was one of several that were at work...



 

14. ...with another visible a few seconds later tipping ballast onto the membrane. A bulldozer towing a roller is ready to spread and then flatten the ballast to form a level trackbed.



 

15. I turned round for a look in the other direction, and moved sideways to get a better look at the work going on to prepare the trackbed at what was once 'Alloa East Junction'. It doesn't look like there is much left to do before laying the membrane and the bed of ballast. Since time was slightly against me, I left at this point, and after stopping off briefly at Hilton Road level-crossing (where nothing had changed in the previous 10 days), I headed off to pick up my friend.



 

16. It was early afternoon when we returned to Alloa and after having already seen where the work was being done chose to start at in the middle of the three overbridges between (the old) Alloa station and Alloa West Junction. And there was indeed something to see, as the missing section of track had now had the rails lifted on



 

17. Zooming in reveals that work is ongoing to get a 'perfect fit' between the rail ends. The rails don't seem to have been fastened to the sleepers yet, but that probably isn't practical until the rails are cut to length and sitting in the right place.



 

18. Looking the other way shows that much the same is going on at the other end of these rails...



 

19. ...and zooming in shows more detail. We watched these workers for a few minutes...



 

20. ...until the rail was cut and was a good fit! Meanwhile in the other direction...



 

21. ...one rail was already cut to fit and the other was being worked on. I don't know exactly how long it takes to fasten the rail to the sleepers but clearly the western tracklaying would soon be continuous right through to the middle of Alloa!



 

22. Having caught up with several hours of work in the cutting at the west end of town, our next move was obviously to see if progress had been as good in the vicinity of the old and new station sites. Looking west from the Waggonway bridge doesn't show much change since my visit earlier...



 

23. ...but there is now a complete covering of ballast on the trackbed opposite the new station platform, although the filling and leveling work wasn't finished yet.



 

24. The nearby pile of ballast is noticeably smaller, although there is still plenty left!



 

25. I then took a closer look at the ongoing work to prepare the trackbed for ballast to be spread on it, and this view shows that there was a hole to be filled in, using material supplied by tipper. A bulldozer sits ready!



 

26. There were actually several bulldozers at work simultaneously here, of at least two different designs, and two of them managed to get in each others way a few minutes later! The nearer one (which stopped to let the other go by) is towing a 'powered roller' which has an engine mounted on it to vibrate the roller to compact the surface better.



 

27. Keeping track of all this activity was not all that easy, because if I watched any interesting activity on one side of the bridge I was in danger of missing something happening on the other side. So it took me a while to notice a digger positioning itself at the east end of the platform. The slight sideways angle the bulldozer is sitting at gives away what isn't otherwise obvious - more ballast is needed right along the platform face to level up the trackbed...



 

28. ...which naturally showed up while my back was turned...



 

29. ..watching this digger working on the edges of the trackbed right at the Waggonway bridge. The driver of this machine wasn't finding it easy as a bucket on an arm like this is best used parallel or at right angles to the edge being dug, neither of which was practicable here!



 

30. A little while later, after having spread tipperload after tipperload of ballast right down the edge of the new platform face, the bulldozer went and fetched a spare roller...



 

31. ...and started compacting the newly spread ballast. Meanwhile the digger is now working right under the bridge and in this view is putting spoil into a waiting tipper, which was parked almost out of sight under the bridge.



 

32. Of course one of the reasons my friend and I were standing on a bridge in the middle of Alloa on a chilly January day was in the hope of seeing the last of the old trackbed through Alloa disappear under fresh ballast and things got nearer to that when two of the workmen started unrolling more of the white membrane.



 

33. As if all this activity wasn't enough, a road-rail machine showed up at the other side of the station bridge with a trolley of concrete sleepers! Based on the SAK tracklaying so far, these could belong to another point!



 

34. Meanwhile white mebrane was being rolled out under the waggonway bridge...



 

35. ...and ballast is being delivered to a bulldozer on the other side of the bridge.



 

36. Finally the membrane is rolled out over the entire unballasted trackbed, and it's time to SHOVE!



 

37. Spread ballast...



 

38. ...tip more ballast...



 

39. ...spread more ballast...



 

40. ...tip even more ballast...



 

41. ...spread & tip ballast at the same time... ! It might look like I am making light of a lot of work, but honestly the spreading work in the last few pictures didn't take long as the machines were working non-stop!



 

42. Skipping forward a few minutes, the remaining section of unballasted trackbed is now quite small...



 

43. ...is getting smaller...



 

44. ...and after a fresh ballast delivery shrinks rapidly...



 

45. ...and is now completely covered. Job done!



 

Having see another milestone in the SAK reconstruction reached, it was time to think of other things. Like returning to the car and running the heater full blast for a start! My friend and I, as well as being railway enthusiasts/preservationists, are also plant enthusiasts/preservationists as well (which is why we stood watching all this on a chilly day in wniter!), but enough was enough!

Of course some further spreading and leveling of the trackbed might be required before track could be laid, but that obviously wouldn't take very long, and I was well aware that I would have to come back very soon indeed or I might miss the final work to complete a continuous track through Alloa. But as mentioned at the start of this report, I am normally at work during daylight hours on weekdays in January, and couldn't possibly take leave on such short notice, so how could I possibly get to Alloa to check? But I did! However that's a story for the next progress report!

Either

Click Here To Go To 'SAK Progress Report 20'

Or

Click Here To Return To Jeff's SAK Pages - SAK Rebuilt!



Disclaimer

These pages are owned and maintained by Jeffray Wotherspoon. The storage space for these pages is provided by the University Of Stirling, but it is in no way responsible for the contents of these pages. Please email me at jeff.wotherspoon@stir.ac.uk if you have any questions, comments, problems etc.